Sometimes it’s hard to love our neighbours. In June 2016, forty-one year old Jo Cox was shot and brutally stabbed to death in broad daylight by a white supremacist. Why? Jo was a fervent supporter of the UK remaining in the European Union. She had only been elected as a UK Member of Parliament elected a year earlier. In her inspiring maiden speech to Parliament, she said ‘We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us’. If only that was true in our country and in our world today.
The calling of the UK referendum on 23rd June 2016 was one of the most divisive acts of our then Prime Minister, David Cameron. That referendum was unnecessary, unless we appreciate that he wanted to silence critics within his own Conservative Party, ending the debate about our membership of the European Union. It was a gamble and it failed badly, ending his parliamentary career. Enter Boris Johnson.
The supposedly likeable buffoon is anything but that. As an MP and Mayor of London, he had prevaricated over declaring his support to remain or leave the EU. His ‘agonisingly difficult decision’ to support leave seemed disingenuous. I believe he is nothing more than an opportunist. It’s clear he thought the Vote Leave campaign would lose, but his own profile would rise enormously. We should be careful what we wish for.
Vote Leave won with 17.4m votes against 16.1m to remain. Despite the fact that nearly 13m people did not vote, the rhetoric is that we must leave the EU as it is the will of the people. That’s democracy for us.
As it happens, Mr Johnson’s ambition to become the 2016 Prime Minister was thwarted when he was betrayed by his friend and ally, Michael Gove, who ran for that office himself.
Instead, Teresa May became Britain’s Prime Minister, leaning heavily on her roots as the daughter of a Church of England Vicar and her own sense of justice. Despite this, she was responsible for creating a hostile environment for immigrants, including the separation of thousands of families refused visas as their income wasn’t high enough.
She foolishly called a general election with the hope of increasing her parliamentary majority. She failed, losing seats and bribing the Democratic Unionist Party (from Northern Ireland) with £10bn to support her minority government. Meanwhile, homelessness and poverty continues to rise at an alarming rate, with foodbanks providing more than 1.6m food parcels in one year. Brexit, as it would be known, dominated our parliamentary agenda, with the Conservative party being as split as it was previously. It would also be Teresa May’s downfall. So now, the Conservative party of 160,000 members will vote for their new leader and our next Prime Minister. Enter Boris Johnson again.
The candidates have been whittled down to two by Conservative MPs; Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. Boris Johnson is widely tipped to be the favourite, despite his lies, racism, affairs and offensive comments. Among other things, he has
- Lied about the money the UK pays the EU
- Lied to his Party about alleged affairs
- sealed the fate of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe by saying she had been teaching journalists in Iran and refused to take responsibility for her subsequent imprisonment in Iran
- compared women wearing a niqab to letter boxes
- written of ‘Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing…’
Wasting £53.5m on a scrapped plan to build a garden bridge is nothing in comparison to his other failures. He makes the incompetent Jeremy Hunt look credible, despite Hunt’s breaching of parliamentary expenses rules and allegations of breaching money laundering laws through his property buying.
More worryingly, Steve Bannon claims to have helped Johnson write a speech attacking Teresa May. President Trump endorsed Boris Johnson for the Conservative Party Leadership. Last weekend, Police were called to Boris Johnson’s girlfriend, Carrie Symond’s flat when a neighbour recorded an altercation. This allegedly included Ms Symond shouting ‘get off me’ and ‘get out of my flat’. Mr Johnson has refused to address this, saying it’s private. He has also refused to make comment on a fellow Conservative MP manhandling a female climate change protester by the neck as she interrupted a formal dinner. The list of appalling behaviour goes on, but as we know from the USA, our leaders can be racist, misogynist liars.
We can despair about these things, or we can do what we can to protest, recognising that all people in our world have more in common than that which divides us. We are called to love God and our neighbours. But that love for others can and should be by tackling oppression and injustice, especially from elected leaders. White supremacy is abhorrent and narrow nationalism and should be frustrated at every opportunity.
Rev Maggie Roderick is a Church of Scotland minister, living in Stirling in central Scotland. Although Maggie is no longer working in a parish, she is still involved in Stirling Presbytery and offers pastoral and preaching covers for colleagues when it’s needed. In the 1990s, Maggie was involved in voluntary environmental work and in her professional life in Consumer Protection.
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